Growing up UncorrelatedBy: Mormon Heretic
The Correlation Committee was started in 1961 and, in the words of John-Charles Duffy, “encompasses a philosophy–one might even say, a theology–of Church governance, in which LDS doctrines about priesthood and prophetic authority are synthesized with strategies for organizational efficiency drawn from the world of business. This philosophy sets a premium on strong central authority, uniform procedures, and unified discourse. … One of correlation’s several objectives is to preserve purity of doctrine in Church discourse, which is to say that correlation acts as a mechanism to police and promote orthodoxy.”2
“Uniform procedures” and “unified discourse” were not part of my Church upbringing. I have two stories to illustrate just how uncorrelated my formative years were. When I was a young teenager in the 33rd Ward in Salt Lake City, our Sunday School class decided that we wanted to learn about other religions. And so, every two or three weeks, we would load into cars and attend other Sunday services in Salt Lake City. They knew we were coming, and we had been briefed on good manners so we could appropriately file into the Unitarian or Catholic or Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints services to watch and listen. I remember that a leader of the local Reorganized Church met with us after the service to answer questions. There was one glitch on the Sunday we visited the Cathedral of the Madeleine. The girls didn’t have head coverings, so after some hurried whispers, we were led, as a group to the front row, making it clear that we were visitors. Our Sunday School teacher that memorable year was the same Joseph Jeppson who helped found Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.
The second story, which I love to tell, is about my grandfather, another pre-Correlation Mormon. He was also a bacteriologist and a dedicated empiricist. Just as Henry Eyring did, he liked to say that “in this Church we don’t have to believe anything that isn’t true.” Grand-dad went to see the bishop one Sunday and explained to him that he knew Sister Brown had tuberculosis, and besides, who knows what other diseases were running around the ward? Even without these known ailments, the practice of passing one large sacrament cup down the row with each person taking a sip was unsanitary in the extreme.
“Bishop”, my grandfather replied, “do you really think that God would have given us brains if he didn’t expect us to use them?”
The bishop suggested that he go home and repent. My grandfather’s reply to that suggestion was “Horse feathers!”
My grandfather helped get the practice changed. My memory is that Elder John A. Widtsoe, another scientist, was his ally. He thought the moral of the story was this: “See, even though Church authorities sometimes act like jackasses, the Church has a way of righting itself.” Grand-dad had a little of J. Golden Kimball’s salty style.